Splendors of Morocco
Explore this land of dramatic contrasts, from vast deserts and snowcapped mountains to ancient ruins and colorful souks.
WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY
This was an amazing trip to an exotic land. The Sahara alone is worth the trip, but to see Fez and the mountains on the same trip, in the same country is amazing. Truly a sublime experience that I will always treasure.”
Our trip wasn't a "trip" rather, it was an experience! Every logistical detail was attended to with complete professionalism. The quality of our accommodation, travel, and restaurants as well as entertainment and education was unrivaled. I have told all my friends how impressed I was with this experience!”
- Smithsonian Journeys to Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
Morocco is a land of dramatic contrasts—vast deserts and snowcapped mountains, ancient ruins and sacred mosques, and imposing kasbahs and spirited souks. Here, one can see the influence of Phoenicians, Romans, Berbers, Jews, Arabs, and the Portuguese and French.
Our exotic adventure takes you to ancient imperial capitals and World Heritage sites in Fez, Marrakech, and Meknes, as well as Ait ben-Haddou and Volubilis. Watch the sun set on endless Sahara sand dunes from atop a camel, follow the “Route of a Thousand Kasbahs,” a fabled caravan route in the High Atlas Mountains, and walk through a medina crowded with snake charmers, musicians, and storytellers. You’ll also see spectacular Todra Gorge and explore Casablanca and Rabat, a historic and contemporary capital. During your journey you’ll tour a typical house in the medina, enjoy a dinner at a family-run riad and meet with a local imam as he discusses the Muslim faith. You’ll also enjoy a two-night stay at a kasbah-style hotel.
Days 1-2 — Depart the U.S. for Casablanca, Morocco
After arriving in Casablanca, the commercial center of Morocco (and of all North Africa), proceed to Rabat, and check into your hotel near famed Hassan Tower. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant in Rabat’s Old Town. (D)
Day 3 — Rabat
One of Morocco’s four ancient imperial cities, Rabat is the present-day capital. Today, encounter an intriguing blend of the historic and contemporary as you discover the fortified Kasbah of the Oudaias, the peaceful Andalusian Gardens, and the necropolis of Chellah, built on ancient Roman ruins. Cross the river to Sale for lunch at a local restaurant followed by a visit to the newly-opened Museum of Contemporary Art and a walk through the medina (old city). Late afternoon return to your hotel and enjoy dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Meknes, Volubilis, and Fez
Today explore three important World Heritage sites. Stop first at Meknes, Morocco’s youngest imperial city, to see the Bab el Mansour gateway and ruins of the imperial stables. Continue to Volubilis, known for its Roman ruins, and then upon arrival in Fez check into your elegant hotel, located adjacent to the medina. (B,L,D)
Days 5-6 — Fez
Morocco’s oldest imperial city, Fez is known for its wealth of cultural, educational, and religious institutions. Begin with a walking tour through the medina, focusing on the artisans' quarters, the 14th-century Koranic schools, and Al Karaouine, the medieval theological university. Return to the hotel for lunch and leisure time before touring the old mellah (Jewish Quarter). Explore the 17th-century synagogue, the royal gates, and the Museum of Fez. Tonight, enjoy a private dinner at an intimate family-run riad, La Maison Bleue. The next day return to the medina and see the Blue Gate, the most picturesque of all the old city’s historical gates, and visit the medieval school of Bouanania dating back to the 14th century. Meet a local family in their home and learn about traditional life in this medieval city. Visit the quarter where Fez’s renowned pottery and ceramics makers create the complex blue-and-white geometric patterns of traditional “bleu de Fez” household and decorative objects. After lunch, enjoy a concert of enchanting Arabic music. Have free time to relax late afternoon before dining this evening at the hotel's restaurant. (2B,1L,2D)
Day 7 — Midelt and Erfoud
Cross the fertile plains beyond Fez to the Middle Atlas mountain range. Densely forested slopes of cedar, cork, and pine give way to arid steppes on these historic routes, where Berbers once fled Arab invaders. Stop for lunch in the small town of Midelt and continue across the Ziz River. Pass by rows of towering date palms and fortified villages before reaching Erfoud in the evening. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Erfoud, Rissani, and Merzouga
Visit the city of Rissani and explore its 18th-century ksar, a virtually imepenetrable warren of alleys, then continue to the ruins of 17th-century Ksar Abbar fortress. Conclude the day with a sunset excursion to the breathtaking sand dunes at Merzouga. In the enormous silence of the Sahara Desert, watch the sun set over the endless dunes from atop a camel. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Tinehir, Todra Gorge, and Ouarzazate
One impressive scene unfolds after another on today’s journey to the snowcapped High Atlas. See the terraced riverside village of Tinehir and spectacular 984-foot Todra Gorge, home to rare bird and plant species. Visit El Kelaa des Mgouna, known for its roses, then set out on an ancient caravan route known as the “Route of a Thousand Kasbahs.” This evening, stay in the town of Ouarzazate. (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Ait ben-Haddou and Marrakech
En route to Marrakech, tour Ait ben-Haddou, a World Heritage site. In its old section, deep red kasbahs are packed together so tightly they appear to be a single unit. Descend from the High Atlas, passing through typical fortified villages with stone houses and earthen roofs. Arriving in Marrakech in the late afternoon, enjoy some leisure time before dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Marrakech
The imperial city of Marrakech, once the capital of southern Morocco, becomes the focus for today. Begin with the beautifully proportioned Koutoubia Mosque with its distinctive 282-foot minaret, then continue to the Andalusian-style El Bahia Palace, followed by the ruins of the 16th-century Palais El Badii. In the city’s main square, Djemaa el Fna, a World Heritage site, snake charmers, entertainers, and vendors vie for attention. Weave your way through stall after stall of Marrakech’s souk, to view the carpets, leather, and other goods created by local artisans. Dinner tonight is on your own in this exotic city. (B,L)
Day 12 — Marrakech
Travel by horse-drawn carriage from Menara Park to Majorelle Garden, a private botanical garden with some 15 species of birds native to North Africa and known for its cobalt blue accents. Visit the newly renovated Berber Museum, with art and artifacts reflecting Berber culture in Morocco. This afternoon, enjoy an exciting meeting when you visit the home of a local imam to discuss the Muslim faith. Dinner tonight will be at a local restaurant in the city’s Old Town. (B,D)
Day 13 — Casablanca
Return to Casablanca and take a city tour in the afternoon, featuring the harbor area, city hall and tribunal, and the magnificent Hassan II Mosque. Tonight celebrate your Moroccan adventure during a farewell dinner. (B,D)
Day 14 — Casablanca and the U.S.
Depart Casablanca for the U.S. on individual flights. (B)